Why Are You Doing THAT?
It’s probably all been said…..what is all this mysterious preparation with the donkey and the clothing on the pathway and the palm branches waving all along the way? Who are those people and what made them decide to have a parade?
Perhaps about now you are wondering what any of this has to do with a faithful mosaic….an image we shared early in Lent. What does this celebration have to do with our own life mosaic---you know—the one where you think it’s possible to put all the pieces together?
And maybe, you are truly wondering….why are you doing THAT….all that time during the next week getting ready for Easter? What is it about this story today that guides us along the way?
This is far from a nice, neat story with a predictable ending. We may be tempted to skate over the next week….after all you could do that—from one “high point” or parade on Palm Sunday and then right to a glorious, fine Easter morning of celebration. But we can’t really go there. We have to go through the week, day by day, as we think about all the mosaic pieces that are floating around. There is some disadvantage in knowing the rest of the story; we know that Jesus is heading for a terrible death at the hands of the Romans, not the Jews. (1) And we may want desperately to skip over the painful week ahead; but that’s kind of like blowing the pieces of the mosaic off the paper. All the pieces, all the elements and the challenges are part of the true understanding of the mystery of God and the gift of life.
Why are you doing THAT? This is often the kind of question tinged with sarcasm. The person asking doesn’t understand and doesn’t want to, so you ask it in such a way that the other person feels belittled or defensive. Why are you doing THAT? How ridiculous is that…riding into town on a donkey! WE don’t understand what you’re doing! We’ve never done it that way before! And so on….
How do we make sense of what we know so far….maybe we might think about going through Holy Week with a new point of view. So far….we know that Jesus has gone about the countryside teaching about the love of God, healing people, and trying to invite people into a life of compassion and love and joy. Jesus has twelve disciples who have been with him, and have been witnesses to the amazing life of this Holy One of Israel. Some of the pieces of the faithful mosaic seem to fit so far into some kind of picture. But then….things begin to change.
Jesus calls the disciples together and tells them to fetch the unridden colt, and to prepare the way for the entry into Jerusalem. Why are you doing THAT, Jesus? That just doesn’t seem to fit what you are doing! Jesus has lived a radically different life up to now….so why should things change? The problem always arises when we expect life to fit into OUR plans, OUR way of doing things.
But Jesus calls the disciples and Jesus call us…..to be along the route, to be witness to what is happening. Perhaps there is a moment for us to consider what it means to be a true witness to this Holy Week. We are willing to be the ones waving the palm branches and welcoming Jesus. But we may find that we are tempted to be in the crowd later in the week that brings Pilate to town---and we know what he winds up doing.
There is a poem called “Unveiling” by Linda Pastan that begins to give us a new view into this week. What’s going to happen after the parade? Come Monday, how will we respond?
In the cemetery a mile away from where we used to live,
My aunts and mother, my father and uncles lie in two long rows,
Almost the way they used to sit around the long planked table at family dinners.
And walking beside the graves today, down one straight path and up the next,
I don’t feel sad, exactly, just left out a bit,
As if they kept from me the kind of grown-up secret they used to share back then,
Something I’m not quite ready yet to learn. (2)
We like to think we are ready to learn…but we have to move through life and notice all the experiences that might bring us a little more insight.
If we had just witnessed this palm procession, we would be wondering what was going to happen next. It’s kind of like that mosaic thing again…..even if you work on all the little pieces, you may not see the whole picture emerge until you get some distance. We truly don’t know the picture as we walk through the cemetery, because we have not been past that point---except that we are willing to trust in God’s care and God’s gift of eternal life. Jesus is the one who came to be the bearer of that “secret” as Linda Pastan calls it…..Jesus came to tell the rest of this wonderful, mysterious story, to share in the “messianic secret” which scripture foretells, according to Scott Hozee of Calvin Seminary. (3) In fact, what is so utterly remarkable is that Jesus was willing to leave heaven’s glory to be with us, and to help US understand what it might be like to live in and for love. (4)
We stand at the beginning of a week that will wear you out emotionally, if you will allow yourself to be fully part of the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The joy of the hosannas might already be fading a little this morning. With each day, we are drawn with Jesus a little closer to the day of the cross. The servanthood of Jesus comes into focus on Thursday evening—and we need to be in that moment…..to know what Jesus said to his disciples on the last night together. As much as we don’t want to face it, we need to find a way to be in silence and reverence sometime on Friday as we remember the last moments of a life divinely-lived in this world. The sorrow of that day and the next lead us to a moment, a day when joy and relief and hope come flooding back into our souls and spirits! And what a celebration THAT will be!
When we are tempted to show our lack of understanding and say, “why are you doing THAT?” may we change that to a sense of wondering---“I wonder what that might mean? Where could that lead us?” There is a difference in perception and a difference in viewpoint. Consider reading the gospel of Mark—chapters 14 through 16 this week. Let this scripture tell you the story of this week once more. See what you learn from it—in thought, in spirit, in feeling. Let us join together through the week as we can---but let us certainly be present next week as we celebrate with assurance the risen Christ. May God be with us all. Amen.
(1) Stephen J. Patterson, The God of Jesus: The Historical Jesus and the Search for Meaning. Trinity
Press International, 1998.
(2) Linda Pastan, “Unveiling,” from Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998.
W. W. Norton and Company, 2009.
(3) Scott Hozee, www.calvinseminary.edu, March 26, 2012.
(4) David Lose, www.workingpreacher.org, March 25, 2012.